Getting the right proposal is the single most important part of the Watson.  All to often, applicants try to come up with a proposal based on what they think the Waston Foundation wants to see.  This approach invariably ends in failure.

Instead, a Watson proposal needs to be focused on one subject:  your personal passion.

This sounds easy, but is often the most difficult part of the entire application process.   Part of the problem is that focusing on one’s personal passion is often the exact opposite of everything you have been doing in your academic career.   Writing a proposal about exploring mermaid mythology, or South American unicycle culture might feel a little strange for the high-achieving academic that you are!

What to Propose?

Spend time asking yourself what you truly love; what topic are you so excited about that it will get you up every morning for an entire year, and drive you to overcome all obstacles to pursue this passion? Remember, there is no syllabus for your Watson; no instructor guiding your study; no one telling you if you are on the right path.  So your passion is the driving force that will propel a successful Watson study.  So take some time and dream. You want to get this part of your proposal absolutely right!

Where Should You Go?

Typically, a Watson Fellow chooses between 3 to 5 countries.  More than 5 becomes logistically difficult and expensive. Two hard and fast rules are that you cannot go to any county on the State Department’s travel warning list, and you can’t go to any country where you have spent significant time already (think 6 weeks or more).  I can already hear you formulting a hundred reasons why you just need to go back to a country you have already been to.  Stop immediately. The Watson wants you to go to new places that will challenge you.  Insisting that you must return to previously visited countries will  guarantee you will not get a Watson. It’s as simple as that.

How Will You Get By?

Once you have come up with the focus of your proposal and where you want to travel, you need to make sure your proposed course of study is actually feasible. You need to formulate a plan for your travels and studies that takes into account language, lodging, and the logistics of carrying out your proposal.  You probably won’t be fluent in the native languages of every country you visit, but you need to have a plan for communication in those countries where language might be an issue.  Where will you stay? How much will it cost?  Who will be your primary contacts that will help you carry out your proposal? The Watson is definitely about pursuing your dreams, but you need to make sure you have a feasible plan to pursue those dreams!

What Makes You an Ideal Watson?

The Watson Committtee wants to see a complete picture of you that extends well beyond your academic transcript.  Are you a leader, volunteer, engaged member of the community?  Think about EVERYTHING you do at Lawrence, at home, and during breaks.  Don’t be shy.  Let us know just what an engaged, motivated person you are.

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